Also known as the “city of fools”, due to the unpredictable nature of its inhabitants, Gubbio, in the north-eastern part of Umbria, lies on the slopes of Mount Ingino. Evidence of its ancient origins are the “Eugubine Tables” (seven bronze tables preserved in the Civic Museum of Palazzo dei Consoli) and the Roman theatre, located just outside the walls. The city is dominated from above by the monumental basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, which houses the remains of the patron saint and the famous Ceri of Gubbio. Ceri also depicted on the emblem of the Umbria Region and whose importance is represented by the festival that takes place on May 15th every year since 1160. The atmosphere is particularly beautiful even during the Christmas time, when you can admire the largest Christmas “tree” of the world. Gubbio is also known for having hosted the first seasons of Father Matteo TV series, where Terence Hill plays the role of a nice priest investigator.
The city's beating heart and the protagonist of any visit is the scenic and panoramic Piazza Grande, from which you can enjoy a splendid view over the valley. Here you can find Palazzo dei Consoli, the symbol of the city, built in Gothic style to witness the importance of Gubbio in the Middle Age. Inside Palazzo dei Consoli there is the civic museum of Gubbio, with the “Campanone” (the big bell) and the seven “Eugubine Tables”, the most important document for the history of Italic peoples, dated between the III and II century BC. The Palazzo dei Consoli also has a curious historical record: it was the first Italian palace to have running water, pipes and toilets. Piazza Quaranta Martiri develops in the lower part of the town and was a market area in the Middle Ages. On the south side there is the church of Saint Francis, dedicated to the episode of Saint Francis and the wolf. According to the story, when Saint Francis arrived in Gubbio, he found a desert city because the inhabitants were afraid of a ferocious wolf. St. Francis went into the forest and made a pact with the animal that foresaw that the wolf would no longer attack the men, who would have fed and cared for him instead. The stone on which the pact was signed and the tomb stone in which the wolf was later buried are still visible in this church. In the highest part of the city, however (908 metres above sea level), on Mount Ingino, you can admire the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo which houses the remains of the saint and the famous Ceri. It is worth going up on foot or by cableway. The small cableway adventure is recommended: climb about 500 metres suspended in the air in a small “cage” in which at most 2 people enter, with a breathtaking panoramic view of the roofs of Gubbio and the surrounding countryside.
La festa dei Ceri is one of the oldest Italian folkloristic events. It takes place every year on May 15th, the eve of Saint Ubaldo's day, and dates back to 1160. The Ceri are three large wooden structures in the shape of superimposed prisms, surmounted by the statues of three saints: Saint Ubaldo, Saint George and Saint Anthony. On the day of the celebration, thousands of people gather in Piazza Grande to give life to an incredible show of collective folklore: the Ceraioli (people who carry the Ceri) load the giant structures on their shoulders and run through the streets of the city while the multitude follow them through the difficult ascent to Mount Ingino, up to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo. One of the most exciting moments of the festival is the Alzata which takes place in the morning at 11:30 am, when the “Campanone” (big bell) sounds, with a rapid movement, the ceraioli quickly raise the structures vertically and begin their run, opening a gap in the cheering crowd. The path is about 4 kilometres. After the race, in the evening, people celebrate the day with food and drink in every square and alley in the city. The famous photographer Steve McCurry said, about the event: “I thought I would see three saints and I saw three Ceri. I thought I would see a town and I saw the people. But, above all, I thought I would see a celebration, and I saw life”. The three Ceri are also depicted on the emblem of the Umbria region.
Christmas in Gubbio is special. First of all because it is here that the largest “Christmas tree” in the world is made: built along the Mount Ingino with over 800 coloured lights, the “tree” has 450 metres of base and 700 metres of height and has a surface of about 130,000 square metres. It lights up at sunset on each evening from December 7th to January 10th from 1981. In addition, the Saint John's chuch, which for many years hosted the shooting of Father Matteo (a TV series where Terence Hill plays the role of a nice priest investigator) is illuminated at Christmas with a great effect of coloured lights and Saint Martin's district is transformed into an outdoor museum: life-size statues, biblical scenes and ancient crafts become protagonists of the Christmas period.
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